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Inversion describes a sentence where the verb is placed before the subject. It is sometimes difficult to remember when inversion is used and it is important to also understand when it should not be used.

In every day English the most common use of inversion is in questions:

Does he like pasta? Can you speak Chinese?

And after 'so', 'neither' or 'nor':

So do I. Neither does she. Nor do I.

In written English and in a very formal style, inversion is used in the following situations:

After negative adverbial expressions:

In no way can I be blamed for the accident.

At no time did she accept responsibility.

Under no circumstances can we accept cheques.

After adverbial expressions of place:

On the table was a beautiful bouquet of roses.

Round the corner came a roar of engines.

After 'seldom', 'rarely', 'never' and in comparisons:

Never have I seen such a stunning view.

Rarely did he praise his employees.

Seldom does one see acts of charity.

After 'hardly', 'scarcely', 'no sooner' and when one thing happens after another:

Hardly had I started my speech when I was interrupted.

Scarcely had we started our meeting when the phone rang.

No sooner had I arrived than they all started arguing.

After expressions beginning with 'only':

Only after completing my studies did I realise the importance of discipline.

In exclamations with 'here' or 'there':

Here comes the winter!

There goes all our money!

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school

Now choose the correct form for the following:

  • 1. Hardly _ started working when there was a power failure.

  • 2. David enjoys going to the opera and _.

  • 3. Seldom _ such a talented singer.

  • 4. Rarely _ listen to their parents’ advice.

  • 5. Only when he saw the expression on our faces _ the seriousness of the situation.

  • 6. At no time _ that she did not enjoy the holiday.